Most Famous Vegans In History
The roots of veganism are owed to an important disagreement that began among the ranks of the Vegetarian Society in August of 1944. Some members requested that the society’s newsletter devote a section to vegetarians who avoided eggs and dairy.
Their request was flatly denied, prompting one member to start a new quarterly newsletter called The Vegan News devoted to Veganism. The publisher, Donald Watson of Leicester, England, chose Vegan because it was the beginning and the end of “vegetarian.” Soon the organization was holding meetings, and the philosophy of veganism has spread less formally ever since.
A United States-based vegan society opened in California in 1948. Vegans celebrate World Vegan Day on November 1 and commemorate that newsletter's publication. Recently, major publications like The Economist, Forbes, and the Canadian magazine MacLean’s have proclaimed 2019 “The Year of the Vegan.”
Vegetarians have been around since the early 1800s, and the diet was popular throughout the 19th century. Ancient humans of the Indus Valley Civilization on the Indian subcontinent followed a plant-based diet from 3300–1300 BCE.
Vegans avoid consuming or purchasing dairy, eggs, leather products, honey, and any other product that involves cruelty to animals. A recent trend is a vegan fashion, such as wearing sustainable shoes made from eco-friendly materials.
Because the term ‘vegan’ and the philosophy did not exist until the disagreement among vegetarians, it is anachronistic to use the term for anyone who lived before 1944. That does not mean that conscientious individuals and groups throughout human history have not followed a diet that we would recognize as vegan today.
History Of Veganism
There have been many theories about the origins of veganism, the oldest of which is that it was born in the darkest hours of humanity’s history when the Roman Empire’s decline and fall gave way to the rise of slavery. Until this time, animals were treated more like property and killed for food. After Rome’s fall, keeping slaves in isolation, away from other people, was easier.
It was considered more humane for the slaves to die from starvation and disease than to be tortured by their masters, and many people took this to heart. After much time spent deliberating among themselves and hearing testimony from renowned Christians, non-Christians and unbelievers, the Catholic Church condemned the killing of all animals in the year 1580.
The Vegan Society was the first organization founded by vegans. It started as the Vegan Welfare Society in 1920. Members initially included scientists, clergy members, educators, and activists involved with Christian, zoological, and medical science. This early group included Justus von Liebig (father of vegetarianism), Agnes Smedley, and Margaret Sanger.
They aimed to expose the harsh and dangerous methods used to keep animals in intensive farming. The members were also concerned about the effects of animal exploitation on health, the environment, the quality of life and animal rights. Under the Vegan Welfare Society banner, groups of vegans distributed leaflets and posters to educate the public about the benefits of vegetarianism.
From its birth, veganism has been persecuted by many who have regarded it as an extreme and dangerous ideology. It has been labelled as “dangerous to life and health,” invectives are flung against those who believe that humans should not be misled into believing that their bodies belong to the animals they eat.
People who believe in this will scream blood on the property of those who do not. The History of Veganism has been embroidered by wild imaginings, including some wild accusations. One such accusation is that vegans tried to take away human rights and eat human flesh. This is impossible because, as a result of animal agriculture, humans do not need the flesh of animals.
What Is Veganism?
Before Veganism was widespread in the United States, the culinary philosophy primarily provided animal products but avoided killing animals. The term did not exist until the 1960s. Veganism became widespread in the 1980s. Veganism refers to people who don’t eat animal products, including eggs, dairy, fish and seafood. Neither uses animal products or by-products in clothing, accessories, cosmetics, or furniture.
The term “vegan” was adopted by American William B. Aupperle in 1966 when he ran a deli in Philadelphia. His approach to veganism was pragmatic and pragmatic. Aupperle wanted his restaurant to look like a typical deli. However, he wanted his customers to make the choices that would make the restaurant profitable. That meant he used butter, milk, eggs and meat when available.
Veganism is a philosophy of living that attempts to exclude, as far as is possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. The word vegan is derived from two Latin words, “vegetare,” meaning to eat, and “carpe,” meaning “to take.”
One does not have to be a vegetarian to be a vegan. Many people who are not strictly vegetarian/vegan/vegetarian-curious often use the term “vegan” to describe someone who eschews animal products. Why go vegan? Because you can! There are reasons to become vegan: Eggs and dairy are unnecessary for a healthy body. Many animal welfare groups point out that livestock is considered “assets” instead of “family members.
Famous Vegans In History
Vanessa Redgrave – British actress Vanessa Redgrave was the President of the British Vegetarian Society. After watching Rosemary Shapiro’s documentary Cruelty on Wheels, the vegan lifestyle choice came about. After the film, she “saw how animals were treated when used for food, and realized that animals were just as intelligent as humans and that they deserved the rights of people.”
In 1964 she founded the Born Free Foundation, a charitable trust dedicated to ending the suffering of animals used for human gain. She has also established ethical vegetarian laws in her home country of England and the United States. Brian Innes Known as “the first vegan chef,” – Brian Innes is also a prominent vegan chef and cookbook author.
In England, the Vegan Society, now the Vegan Society UK, is home to almost 50,000 vegan members and operates out of Bradford in West Yorkshire. And since 1976, the society’s Council has published a quarterly magazine called The Vegan.
But the founder of Veganism, the first prominent vegetarian, the political philosopher, the athlete and the artist, was a young Swedish immigrant to the United States and an early adherent to the vegetarian way of life. Even when he first came to the United States, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish botanist and his wife, had already practiced vegetarianism for quite some time.
PETA founder, Ingrid Newkirk, is perhaps the most famous vegan in history. Her autobiography Vegan is the New Black became a New York Times bestseller, and the book was adapted into a feature film starring Salma Hayek. She created PETA in 1972 and is the animal rights group’s president and founder.
Newkirk said: “We are using the word ‘vegan’ to bring a face to the movement that had become very bureaucratic and very staid. The first step in being able to make a difference is to change the image.” Are You Ready to Go Vegan? First, it is essential to know that veganism is not a fad or a diet to lose weight. Veganism is the complete avoidance of all animal foods.
Who Was The First Famous Vegan?
One of the most famous pioneers of veganism was Dr. Dean Ornish, who became vegan at age 24 after examining his own health. While his mother had breast cancer, she relied on egg yolks, which he believed played a crucial role in her treatments.
When Dr. Ornish started looking into science and found that it was plausible that eggs and dairy were the reason for his mother’s health problems, he decided to change his diet. He subsequently lost much of his hair due to hormone issues and related diseases. Another early celebrity vegan was German Vegetarian Dieter Martin Chemnitz, a.k.a. “Der Pferde-Welt-Monster” (literally, “The Horse-World’s Monster”).
Napoleon is considered the first vegan, with a French interpretation of the term, meaning “friendly to animals.” He liked some animals but thought they were more important as food than companions. He expressed it: “When a peasant eats, let him not think that, in doing so, he feeds his stomach but an animal which is entitled to live only because it fed on the peasant’s own efforts.”
Others followed, including John Markway, the editor of The Truthseeker, an English journal. In the 1770s, Markway publicly campaigned to abolish slavery. Who was the first famous non-vegan? Soren Kierkegaard’s all-meat diet lasted 20 years. Robert Burton, the author of the classic The Anatomy of Melancholy, was a vegetarian for 20 years.
List Of Famous Vegans In History
At age twelve, Gandhi began a passive resistance campaign against British rule in India. The British found it helpful in crushing the Indian independence movement and refused to release him. Over the next four years, Gandhi went on a fast in prison, becoming more famous as he gained worldwide attention.
Gandhi stated on his deathbed in 1948, “I am a Vegan.” Louis Pasteur, the chemist credited with the discovery of the fermentation of milk to milk, became a vegan as he believed animal products caused the deaths of babies. He and his wife devoted their lives to vegetarianism. The Mughal Empire considered Gandhi a threat to their empire in the 1800s.
Here is the list of 25 famous vegans that have impacted the vegan community in the past 50 years. The list is not in any particular order.
- 1. Christopher Reeves
- 2. and 3. Paul McCartney
- 4. Bill Clinton
- 5. Judy Garland
- 6. Dick Van Dyke
- 7. Roscoe Lee Browne
- 8. George Harrison
- 9. Pat Boone
- 10. Muhammad Ali
- 11. John Cleese
- 12. Marie-Louise Vonnegut
- 13. Richard Gere
- 14. Sammy Davis, Jr.
- 15. Tom Morello
- 16. George Harrison
- 17. Cleo Rocos
- 18. Anne Robinson
- 19. Ray Winstone
- 20. Gregory Peck
- 21. George R.R. Martin
- 22. and 23. Dave Grohl
- 24. Donald Sutherland
- 25. Robin Williams
Musician and film director Woody Guthrie was one of the pioneers of veganism. In 1942 he began eating a strictly vegan diet, and in 1947, he joined a French commune called Earth Lodge. Earth Lodge was a vegan community that was not strictly organic but included no animal products in its diet.
Guthrie maintained a vegan diet throughout his life. He used a horse-drawn cart in his travels and carried only a small amount of goods. Activist and social activist Betty Meggers lived on a vegetarian diet for more than fifty years without becoming addicted to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or even coffee. Elie Weisel, an Auschwitz survivor, became a prominent advocate for nonviolence.
Some of the earliest recorded vegetarians were Pythagoras and Socrates. Pythagoras wanted to cut out meat, fish, and dairy because he felt the body was designed to run on carbohydrates, not animal flesh. Socrates was the first to introduce a practical standard for vegetarianism. He lived in a highly literate society and thought knowledge was the basis for ethical behaviour.
(Born 551 BC) He was never an advocate of greed. He ate only what he needed and abstained from eating meat and dairy products. He was also the first to suggest that people be classified into food groups and that carbohydrates, proteins and fats were “truthful” or “false.”
He was a vegetarian, a phrase that became veganism’s early rallying cry. Susan B. Anthony (born in 1820) – An outspoken advocate for the rights of women and minorities, Anthony converted to the movement for animals’ rights in the 1860s. After her husband’s death, she became a vegetarian and initiated other activists in the cause, including John Macleay, her fellow Englishman, who founded the first British Vegan Society.
Leonardo da Vinci
Not only did Leonardo da Vinci become a vegetarian, but he was also very fond of animals and claimed that “the absence of animals gives humans all the benefits of nature.” He believed that humans should share the benefits of nature with all living beings, including the land, animals, insects, birds and all of nature.
Timothy Leary Leary was a respected author and a mind-body doctor who used cannabis and LSD to reduce drug addiction. He also became a vegetarian at age seventeen after hearing a lecture given by Edward C. Tolman, Ph.D., on nutrition and evolution. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead The legendary musician and singer Garcia was also a vegetarian.
Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian, trained anatomist, painter, inventor, musician, geologist, and philosopher. His childhood cook was a vegetarian. His friend and colleague Michelangelo nicknamed him “Il Monstro,” the Monster, because he did what he wanted, and Leonardo led a nomadic life, sleeping under bridges and in caves.
He lived without money or possessions. He climbed to the top of the dome of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Florence at 55, one of the first recorded ascents. He never married and had no children. He is considered the greatest genius and architect of the Renaissance.
Before becoming a vegetarian, Albert Einstein was known to have rejected eggs. In his biography of Einstein, his former cook later recalled that while the Nobel Prize-winning physicist kept vegetable and fruit salads on hand, he mostly went without meat. When a Christian friend of his invited Einstein to a restaurant, Einstein replied that he’d prefer to be served with “himself.”
Mahatma Gandhi In 1899, when Gandhi was sixteen, his mother wrote to a friend offering the unusual promise: “My son, who is your guest, will never eat beef, and if you invite him again, he will deny you.” After some thought, Gandhi agreed. Gandhi became a vegetarian at fifteen, later saying, “I can live on leaves and mangoes and get them from anywhere.
As a child, Einstein turned away from animal products because he believed they were unhealthy, insipid, and inedible. However, he later said that after an accident in which he swallowed a speck of dandruff, he decided avoiding animal products was a worthwhile compromise.
Other famous vegans of the twentieth century include
- T.S. Eliot,
- Winston Churchill, and
- Norman Mailer.
- Clara Bailey: Clara Bailey did not eat meat because she believed animals were not conscious beings with emotions, but her father insisted that she do so. She became a vegetarian in 1974 after encountering farm animals who appeared sad due to being mistreated.
- Wilhelm Reich: Wilhelm Reich is considered the founder of the Scientific Vegetarian Movement.
The Roots Of Veganism
Based on some years of searching, I’ve collected some of the many famous vegans in history. They have listed in alphabetical order:
- Alice Adams – daughter of Thomas Jefferson.
- Albert Einstein – worked with some of the earliest meat-free diet evangelists.
- Dorothy Height – grew up as a vegan and went vegan after meeting Gandhi.
- Joseph Pilates – created the first commercial Pilates exercise system.
- Dr. Norman Vincent Peale – vegetarian for several years before discovering many health benefits to veganism.
- Gloria Steinem – is a vegetarian.
- Russell Brand – is a vegetarian and famously said he would no longer wear animal products.
- Peter Singer – is a vegetarian.
- Edward Abbey – founded the Wilderness Society.
- Sandra Lee – baker of many vegan and gluten-free recipes.
The term “veganism” was coined in the 18th century by Samuel Philippoteaux, an influential French physician. He saw vegetarians and vegans as parallel yet incompatible philosophies:
“But if it is not intended to exclude flesh and blood of animals, there must be such a distinction that the animal owner shall not be excluded from the association. Not all the weaker brethren may be allowed to cooperate with the stronger without either wrecking their constitutions, or changing their state of mind, or causing them to become disenchanted with their diet. This is the dangerous doctrine of the traditional vegetarian, who can destroy the sound physique and the sensitive constitution without even a blush.”
Like most movements, veganism is more than just what an individual does or does not do. As the Ancient Greeks would say, “We eat what we’re asked to eat.” There are many aspects of being vegan, including how one eats, the type of diet one lives, the food one eats, and the environment in which one lives.
For those who live in apartments or condos, eating animal products is not always an easy thing. While the agriculture of industrialized countries is responsible for many of the environmental problems of industrialized societies, all industrialized nations require enormous quantities of animal products to provide for the comforts and the necessities of life.
As with so many controversial theories, those on the very fringes of these clubs are often the most eager to promote their beliefs. It’s easy to see how becoming a vegan might be the most likely route to instant social recognition.
Before the internet, forums and blogs were the primary way for passionate, educated vegan community members to make their voices heard and influence their peers. Today, however, a vegan’s good deeds are more likely to be recognized, for better or for worse, through blogs and newspapers.
I trust you enjoyed reading the article about the Most Famous Vegans in History. Please stay tuned. There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
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Ideas? Thoughts? Questions? I would love to hear from you. In the comments section below, would you mind leaving me your questions, experience, and remarks about the Most Famous Vegans in History? You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@LivingTheVeganLifestyle.org.
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2 thoughts on “Most Famous Vegans In History”
Beautiful research, but still omits one key point. Eating herbivore is more than the absence of good morals in eating DNA relatives, consciousness expansion or health: chemicals in animals influence behaviour of individuals and groups, animal instincts, the fear in cow adrenaline at abattoir, the pecking-order of chickens, the imprisonment of pigs, etc. It influences behaviour, like alcohol and drugs, and is responsible for predatory economy. (Dog eat dog)
Dietary preferences were understandable when there were few people and plenty nature. Now the roles are reversed: plenty people and nature in retreat. Time for new rules: Ahimsa laws. (Ahimsa means non-violence. An old concept, used with great success by, for example, Gandhi, King, Mandela.)
Consuming like a caveman is no longer wanted. Herbivore food is tasty, filling, nutritious, healthy, makes better use of land, etc.
If predators are so good, why do herbivores still exist?
Many habits were banned to create viable community, like duels, marrying relatives, theft, drunk driving, public lewdness and so on.
Some people think omnivore habits make one strong, but can’t explain why the largest animals are herbivores. Others believe it makes them smart, but can’t explain why clever ones like Einstein became one. (and many more!)
Herbivore food doesn’t take one meek: major wars were decided by weapons invented by Einstein, DaVinci. Herbivores animals too have alpha leaders!
Darwin ever meant to unleash the law of the jungle within community, protected as we are by services, infrastructure, security, hospitals. etc.
Sure, society must obey natural selection, but we face it together. We learned long ago that even if the enemy is fierce, we can win by pooling resources.
Humans not only succeeded because of cultivating individual excellence, but also teamwork, sharing specialties, laws, working together: competition and cooperation both. Go beyond heartstrings and use reason: the Global Village needs Ahimsa Laws to unify and greatly expand in the Milky Way.
Veganism isn’t solely about morals, it is also about economics, environment and population growth. Efficient use of resources.
Humanity is integrating. From clans and tribes, via city states and provinces, to countries and federations. Next is the Global Village and Space Age.
People need to formulate and enact Ahimsa Laws to make this happen.
WOW! Thank you very much for this valuable addition to my blog post. I learned a lot from your comment, and I want to find out more about the Ahimsa Laws. Thanks again, and take care, Pieter.